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First Streetlight Sculpture Coming Soon, City Arts Day Planned

News from the El Cerrito Arts and Culture Commission: the first of the long-awaited abstract copper sculptures on San Pablo Avenue streetlight poles is expected next month, and a city arts day is planned for Oct. 26.

El Cerrito's biggest public art project appears to be moving closer to reality.

Spinning sculptures on streetlight poles

The first of 12 abstract copper sculptures designed to be suspended on San Pablo Avenue streetlight poles is expected to be installed sometime next month, said Suzanne Iarla, the city's community relations specialist.

The sculptures by Berkeley artists Saori Ide and Jonathan Russell will have steel C-shaped frames with abstract copper elements inside designed to spin with the wind. The project was chosen in a city-sponsored competition for a $100,000 commission for the public art component of the city's multi-year San Pablo Avenue Streetscape Project.

The long-delayed project appeared to have cleared its final obstacle in March – more than three years after a city issued a call to artists to submit proposals –  when it won approval from the city's Arts and Culture Commission.

But the commission learned at its Wednesday meeting this week that another delay had been introduced by concerns over the potential for the copper to contaminate stormwater runoff with potential hazards to salmon, according to commission chair Joyce Hawley.

However, because the project does not call for regular cleaning of the copper but instead is designed to have it age in place and develop a natural patina, its use was not considered a significant risk, Hawley and Iarla said.

Besides, Russell told the commission, if any of the pieces should need cleaning, they can be temporarily removed to eliminate any spillage from the cleaning process into the storm drains, according to Iarla.

The first sculpture was originally intended to be installed on a streetlight pole next to El Cerrito's border with Albany, but it was agreed at the Wednesday commission meeting that the first would be installed, perhaps temporarily, on a streetlight pole next to City Hall in time for a newly planned city arts day on Friday, Oct. 26, Iarla said.

New city arts day in the works

The Arts and Culture Commission Wednesday also launched planning for a new city arts day to be held Friday, Oct. 26, from 5-7 p.m. at City Hall.

It will celebrate the inauguration of the new copper wind sculptures, feature fun activities like face-painting and creative photography with props, and provide opportunities for local artists, arts organizations, arts-related businesses and members of the community to meet and mingle, Iarla said.

It will also include light refreshments and live background music.

The celebration is being held in conjunction with National Arts and Humanities Month, observed every October. Last year, El Cerrito held an arts day with a do-it-yourself arts fair at the Community Center, held in conjunction with California Arts Day.

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